5 September 1997

Let anaesthetic work before disbudding

NOT allowing sufficient time for anaesthetic to take effect is the commonest fault when disbudding calves.

So warns Hants-based vet Jonathan Harwood. "All disbudding must be carried out under local anaesthetic by law. But a common mistake is to anaesthetise a small group of, say, five calves, disbud them and then anaesthetise five more." He says the effect of the anaesthetic will last for over two hours, but takes at least 10 minutes to be effective, so there is a danger that the first calf may not be properly anaesthetised.

It is better to apply the anesthetic – using a fresh needle for each calf to reduce the spread of infection – to a larger batch of about 20 and then return to the first calf injected, he advises.

Correct age of calves at disbudding is vital. It is a stressful operation, and so calves should not be disbudded when they are ill, when they are weaned, or when moving or mixing calves. "If disbudding has to be postponed and a horn develops, it is not illegal for producers to remove them. But it must be borne in mind that the procedure must be carried out humanely using local anaesthetic.

"Horns of larger cattle should be removed by the vet, who will put the welfare of the animal first and ensure that the producer is not at risk of prosecution," he adds.

Mr Harwood emphasises that disbudding is the preferable option to horn removal. &#42

DISBUDDING CALVES

&#8226 Allow anaesthetic time to work.

&#8226 Ensure whole bud is removed.

&#8226 Do not disbud at weaning.

Anaesthetic given for disbudding calves takes at least 10 minutes to be effective, but lasts for two hours, says Jonathan Harwood.